Top Ten Films – for Electric Sheep
Robin Rimbaud – Scanner
Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
A mind-blowingly inventive film that touches on memory, appearance and history, and most definitely a work that can’t be written about in one paragraph. Is it a fiction or reality? As a student I saw this when it was first shown in London at the ICA and remember leaving the cinema as if in a spell. Indeed when it was first shown in Channel 4 TV the following year I recorded the entire film on cassette so I could just listen back to this expansive free-form travelogue.
Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax, 1986)
I saw this at the Metro Cinema in London when it was first shown in London, with no expectations at all. Super stylish with a central love story between a young animated Denis Levant and Juliette Binoche, the film exhibits beautifully detailed directorial touches, such as the marks on her skin from the sheet when she wakes up in bed. It’s a hymn to Paris with a love of Godard in every scene.
Ghost Dance (Ken McMullen, 1983)
Again I discovered this at the ICA, Initially drawn to the film having read that the esteemed David Cunningham of The Flying Lizards composed the score and performance artist Stuart Brisley made an appearance. A film about ‘ghosts’ in our everyday world, it’s a thought provoking and haunting film that has an unforgettable cameo by the late great Jacques Derrida in a smoky Parisian café.
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
A film that has frequently been referenced with regard to my earlier work exploring scanned mobile phone calls and the invasion of privacy. Long before the Net and Social Networks took precedent this film focuses on a surveillance expert who is destroyed by his own obsession, focusing on the limitations of sound and how we listen and interpret. Gene Hackman plays his role with a lonely passion for his job, yet filled with an angst and caution about everyone he meets.
Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)
I could easily have chosen Lynch’s Eraserhead or Blue Velvet but this twisted film is bewildering and surreal, where rational needs to be left at the door. Characters swiftly morph into others, whilst locations urgently switch from one to another. I love how even Lynch plays with his own reputation as he sends characters into dark corridors with a sombre industrial soundtrack and they emerge again unscathed. Best use of a David Bowie song (I’m Deranged) in a film since Mauvais Sang too.
Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
A war film that is more about retreat than attack and arguably one of the strongest war films of all time, where sorrow and failure take priority over dominance and a sense of conquest. As the remarkable soundtrack mirrors the devastation of the war on the young man, with ever-increasing noise in the score, we are made true witnesses to all that is the horror of war. It’s an uncompromising and heartbreaking film that always makes me think of Klimov’s short film Larissa (1980) that is an elegy to his late wife Larisa Shepitko.
The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1977)
Like most of my film choices here images remain burnt into my retina long after seeing the film and this in particular features harrowing scenes, in particular the execution scene where we witness the fierce unblinking stare of a boy looking into the eyes of condemned men. Seen alongside Come and See by her husband Klimov, this film is heroic in ambition and a tragedy that Shepitko died so young. The score of Schnittke is transcendent and as cold as white snow.
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
A film that divided many people but I remember watching this in the splendid Art Deco Tuschinski cinema in Amsterdam and had never seen so many people leave a film screening until I was left as one of a handful of mesmerised viewers enraptured by this prayer to the image, to the soul. Within the opening twenty minutes I had tears in my eyes as the John Tavener score soared to spiritual heights, the dreamlike editing and stunning images taking me with them on this elegiac journey into childhood and the afterlife.
Starsky & Hutch (Todd Philips, 2004)
We all have guilty pleasures, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen this film around a dozen times and still find it affectionate, playful, deliberately formulaic in its narrative and reliably amusing. A kind of paean to 1970s cinema and all the baggage that this brings with it in the most enjoyable way.
The Last of England (Derek Jarman, 1988)
Like many of the other directors I’ve chosen films from I could just as easily have chosen Jarman’s The Garden, The Angelic Conversation or Caravaggio, but The Last of England is the vision of an angry Jarman, raging against the system of the time, with visceral, kinetic images that push the viewer to make a real commitment to this dreamlike tale. Given that he died before the advancements in digital filmmaking and mobile technologies it still saddens me to wonder what magic Jarman would have been producing if he were here still with us today.